We are absolutely appalled by recent media comments attributed to WAFarmers Chief Executive Trevor Whittington, where he was quoted in Farm Weekly on June 1 (https://www.farmweekly.com.au/story/8216938/lobby-group-takes-aim-at-rec-shooters/) as saying Western Australia Police Minister Paul Papalia needed to take a much harder stance on shooters to get firearm numbers in the state down – and in particular, banning the ownership of firearms for recreational (hunting) purposes.

Mr Whittington was quoted as being broadly supportive of the WA Government’s plan to reduce overall firearm numbers in WA, and appeared to say the Police Minister’s plans didn’t go far enough to achieve that.

“If the Police Minister was serious about reducing the risk of firearms to the community, he would ban anyone who is not a primary producer or competition shooter from owning a firearm,” he is quoted as saying.

“To have any material impact, he would have to go a lot further than he is and ban firearm ownership in the recreational shooting community – that would cull at least 70,000 of the state’s 90,000 licensed firearm owners overnight, but he’s not willing to do that.”

Damningly, he explicitly acknowledges recreational shooters will be upset at his stance but appears indifferent to the issue, being quoted as saying “when it comes down to it, farmers need firearms for their job and recreational shooters do not”.

“The recreational community is annoyed at us because they want us to burn their political capital looking after them, but the bottom line is I’m not getting calls from my members saying ‘I need more than 10 guns’,” he is quoted as saying.

We find it astonishing Mr Whittington is apparently so ignorant of the volunteer work recreational shooters do on agricultural properties controlling feral pest numbers, and further believe his reported comments are so divisive and inflammatory as to have driven a wedge between primary producers and all other licensed shooters as a result.

We are absolutely disgusted by the ‘Screw you, we’ve got ours’ attitude of the comments attributed to Mr Whittington, and are raising the matter directly with the WA Farmers Board of Directors (who we hope are as shocked and appalled as the rest of us).

In addition to calling for Mr Whittington to resign over the reported comments, we are also calling on WAFarmers to publicly repudiate those same comments and reassure the shooting community they are not an official stance of that organisation.

It seems pretty clear to us the WA Government has been engaging in ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, trying to partition different elements of the shooting community off so they can implement their new, even more restrictive laws with reduced opposition – and it cannot be allowed to happen.

It is our firm belief that all shooters – be they farmers, hunters, target shooters, collectors or professional shooters, as well as dealers – need to stand together on all attacks against the shooting sports.

Remember: The reason you can’t own a pump-action shotgun or semi-auto .22 for hunting is because of similar divisive strategies employed in 1996.

Don’t fall into the trap of being divided – stand with all shooters and say “Enough!”

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